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been generally receptive to the programme.
The pharmacies will receive a tremendous
boost to their inventory management
capabilities with the introduction of new
software from Info Tech, a Trinidadian
company. Benjamin seemed quite pleased
about the development, as it will help to
monitor reorder levels and improve on
Other plans include an expansion of the
storeroom, and the possible introduction
of a mobile pharmacy to serve the sick
Charting The Road To
and shut-in. While Benjamin believes
this new feature could revolutionized the
way medication is dispensed, he says the
implementation will be based on feedback
from an upcoming road show.
Established in 1979, the Medical
The pharmacy initially provided medication
Meanwhile, New Communications and
Benefits Scheme (MBS) provides
for people suffering from eight chronic
Marketing Manager Janelle Charles-
non-communicable diseases: cardiovascular
Williams was busy co-ordinating this
financial and other assistance
disease, diabetes, glaucoma, cancer, Sickle
major public awareness activity. The road
towards the cost of medical
Cell Anaemia, certified lunacy, hypertension
show, or “healthcade” through the various
services in Antigua and Barbuda.
and leprosy. Asthma was later added to the
communities, as she coins it, replaces the
annual Health Expo. It is slated to run in
Initially, the institution was
designed to assist beneficiaries,
Benjamin’s figures show that MBS grew
from accepting 2,500 prescriptions in its first
particularly those suffering
year, to 6,000 per month in 2000, and now
“It’s being held under the theme ‘Get on
the Road to Better Health,” and is geared
from certain chronic illnesses.
more than 10,000 each month in 2008.
toward encouraging the general public to
However, this mandate was “This growth can be attributed to the take better care of their health,” she explains.
later expanded to include the
introduction of satellite pharmacies in
“Our teams will stop at various areas to offer
Clare Hall, Browne’s Avenue, All Saints
construction of medical facilities
health screenings and counselling services.”
and Johnson’s Point,” he says, adding that
such as hospitals and clinics, in the numbers might increase soon, with the
Traditionally, the MBS has been concerned
with the treatment of diseases, but roughly
addition to other forms of medical
planned opening of another pharmacy at the
five years ago, the institution introduced a
assistance to residents.
Gray’s Farm Clinic.
prevention programme. Medical Officer
Benjamin hopes this will in turn help to
Dr Leslie Walwyn-Venugopal says chronic
he scheme is currently funded by the ease the workload at the St John’s Pharmacy, non-communicable diseases are the leading
3.5% contributions deducted from the which still fills half the total annual causes of death and disability in Antigua and
earnings of employees, matched by an equal prescriptions. Barbuda.
amount from employers.
Of the $13 million spent on purchasing
She stresses that unless people live healthier
For the average Antiguan and Barbudan, medication each year, cardiovascular diseases, lifestyles, the incidence of these diseases will
thoughts of a pharmacist dispensing which include hypertension and diabetes, continue to increase dramatically, hence the
prescriptions quickly come to mind account for the largest percentage of this MBS’ Prevention Programme.
whenever MBS is mentioned. Vernon sum.
Dr Walwyn-Venogupal notes that “it has
“Solo” Benjamin is the pharmacy manager at
“Cancer medications are also very expensive,
been proven that these diseases are linked
the MBS. As he explains it, “The pharmacy
and we’ve seen a gradual increase in the
to how we live and eat, and so if we learn to
was introduced in August 1990, since
prescriptions for these medications,”
take better care of ourselves, then perhaps
patients were unable to obtain medications
Benjamin says.
we won’t end up with them. So in addition
from the public health facilities at the
to managing diseases, more focus is now
time, and had to make purchases from Apart from dispensing prescriptions, the
being placed on prevention, since in the long
local pharmacies. Although persons were 13 MBS pharmacists are also charged with
run, people will be healthier and the whole
refunded, many individuals who could counselling patients on the proper care of,
country saves money.”
not afford to buy the medications suffered, and best ways to take their medications.
and so the board, in its wisdom, decided Patients are also encouraged to return all “After all,” she adds, “the business of
to establish a pharmacy at the MBS unused medications to prevent misuse. healthcare is a quite a costly affair, and each
headquarters in St John’s.” According to Benjamin, most patients have year millions are spent on managing chronic
diseases. Health is wealth and a healthy
32 | BusinessFocus • August/September 2008
nation is a wealthy nation.”
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